Learn something new every day More Info... by email
A blood pressure monitor can be one of many devices used to measure blood pressure. Most people who visit doctors or are hospitalized are familiar with various types of monitors. They can be simple cuffs with a hand pump that gradually inflates the cuff. Medical workers may then use a stethoscope and check the readout on the dial as the cuff deflates to measure blood pressure. More often, doctors and hospitals have turned to monitors that are powered by electricity and give digital readouts of systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) pressure.
Most types of the blood pressure monitor have at least two components. They feature the cuff, which may wrap around the arm, wrist or even a finger, and they have a display or dial to read blood pressure numbers. Additional components can include connections between the cuff and an inflating device, and possibly a stethoscope.
Many people are familiar with these monitors because they use them at home too. There are numerous blood pressure monitor styles available for sale. Doctors may recommend monitoring blood pressure if a person has suspected high blood pressure or is at risk for high blood pressure due to other conditions like pregnancy with a history of hypertension.
Home monitors function much in the same way as do hospital or doctor’s office monitors, but they are usually far less expensive. They may not be quite as accurate, and some doctors will recommend that patients purchase a specific brand of monitor, or at least ask patients to get a monitor that fits around the arm instead of measuring pressure around a finger or wrist. Arm monitors do seem more accurate than do blood pressure machines of other types.
Even when a person is being treated for high blood pressure, they may need to use a home blood pressure monitor. Recording pressure numbers several times a day can determine if medications or other treatments are adequately addressing hypertension. Some doctors do prefer that patients have their pressure monitored in doctor’s offices instead, but this isn’t always feasible and can be inconvenient.
Sometimes doctors will request that patients wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This may be suggested if a physician wants to closely follow blood pressure patterns for the day or if they believe that a person only has high blood pressure when they’re in a doctor’s office. The latter may be called white coat hypertension, and diagnosing it can help avoid treating patients who only exhibit high pressure because doctors or medical facilities make them extremely nervous.
An ambulatory blood pressure monitor is attached to a special recording system and takes blood pressure about once every 30 minutes. People usually wear them for 24 hours and may have a sheet of paper on which to record any events occurring just before pressure was taken. The device is called ambulatory because most people can pursue normal activities while wearing it. After the 24-hour period, data from the blood pressure monitor can be analyzed to discover if hypertension exists and/or the extent of hypertension. This analysis can then help to determine treatment.
When I started running again, my doctor suggested I buy a wrist blood pressure monitor to track my progress. I had concerns about blood pressure monitor accuracy, but I brought it into my next check-up and the results were almost identical to the cuff-style monitor in his office. I don't like that feeling of having my circulation cut off for so long, so this smaller monitor is great for me.
I try to use the free blood pressure monitor at my grocery store's pharmacy every time I shop. I don't know how accurate it is, considering how much abuse it takes, but I don't have my own blood pressure monitor at home and I like to know the numbers. Hypertension runs in my family and I can't afford to see a doctor more than once or twice a year.
I found one machine at another grocery store pharmacy that also had a vision test and BMI scale. This machine looked brand new, so I assume it has an accurate blood pressure monitor, too.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!